REVIEW : SurReality – Matt Doyle

SurReality Book Cover SurReality
Matt Doyle
Horror, LGBTQ Fiction, Short Read
Nine Star Press
June 2, 2023

Tony Cork and Benny Marks were ‘The Princes of UK Paranormal Television.’ Then, while investigating an urban legend for their 2015 Christmas Special, the couple found themselves torn apart by tragedy. Told through a series of blog posts written by the fans that loved them, this is Tony and Benny’s story.

Three murders over three days, the same time every year. These were the final days of the paranormal investigative show, SurReality.

Review by Gordon Phillips

Reviewer for the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team

“SurReality,” a “scary short” (story) by Matt Doyle, is presented in epistolary fashion similar to Bram Stoker’s Dracula—news clippings and transcriptions of broadcasts and interviews—but with an introduction of sorts, an exchange of on-line posts by various individuals in a thread titled: Anybody remember that Jackie Taylor show? One of these (KCrowe) then posts the various documents that tell the story. This turns out to be Kaleigh Crowe of Paranormal TV News, who was involved in the original unfolding of details of what turns out to be a really grisly series of paranormal-involved incidents.

The main characters, Tony Cork and Benny Marks, are barely recognized as such, given that the only sources of information are media-based, and we learn little about their personal lives and relationship with each other. The effect is to keep the full human element at a bit of a distance from the reader. This is consistent with Crowe’s paranormal news show being titled Chicken GHOULash for the Soul—with its emphasis on the ghoulish.

Tony and Benny are co-hosts of a paranormal investigation show, SurReality, which goes bad during one episode, resulting in Tony being injured and Benny disappearing. Ironically, this causes the show’s ratings to skyrocket—as well as some calling the events a hoax. After this there is further nastiness as both Benny and an explanation are sought.

Human nature is not represented at its best in the events that unfold, exemplified by the fact that most of the events occurs among one of society’s most disadvantaged communities—the homeless. The dispassionate nature of the narrative has the effect of limiting the potency of the horror, which emotion relies on fear and disgust. The disgust here is displaced from the supernatural-induced nastiness and becomes a general comment on human nature, which produces pity, an emotion associated with tragedy rather than horror.

But still, Doyle is a good writer and story-teller, so the journey, with its limitations, is satisfying—and disturbing.

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